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Video: Sexual abuse scandal in Mormon musical family

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    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: In Salt Lake City a family of classical musicians is making headlines not for their music , but for a nightmare that only recently came to light. The group's one-time manager plead guilty this week to sexually assaulting three of its members. That man was also their father. NBC 's Lee Cowan has the disturbing story. Good morning to you, Lee .

    LEE COWAN reporting: Good morning, Meredith . The 5 Browns is what they're called, and they were certainly well-known here in Utah and at concert halls like this one long before they hit the big time . And while NBC doesn't generally identify the victims of sexual abuse, in this case the sisters say that they wanted to be identified, in part to help protect others. They were taking piano lessons before their feet could even touch the pedals, five siblings -- three girls, two boys -- with one amazing gift. When they were young their parents, Keith and Lisa , wedged five pianos into their home.

    Mr. KEITH BROWN: We got rid of the dining room table, and there were pianos in the bedrooms.

    COWAN: They practiced six hours a day. Partly out of necessity, partly out of pure talent they all learned to play in amazing synchronicity, a singular sound that shot them to Juilliard then stardom, as high as number one the classical charts. But this week the Browns ' life played out in a much different way. Their father and one-time manager pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually abusing all three of his daughters.

    Mr. STEVEN SHAPIRO (Keith Brown's Attorney): He is terribly remorseful for what has happened and for what he's put his family through.

    COWAN: Court records indicate the nightmare started more than 20 years ago when the youngest of the quintet was only six. The group's spokesman said the sisters, now in their 20s and 30s, came forward to prevent the possibility that others might become victims. Prosecutors wouldn't comment about why now.

    Mr. DAVID STURGHILL (Utah County Prosecutor): I think that's a personal thing and, you know, that's the, you know -- the victims have their reasons for not coming forward sooner.

    COWAN: The Browns are a devout Mormon family, and their spokesman credited that and their music for getting them through.

    Mr. KIMBALL THOMPSON (5 Browns Spokesman): They're spiritual and religious people, and they derive a lot of support from that.

    COWAN: Brown 's attorney says the plea deal, which could carry a life sentence, was meant to spare the family any more harm, and there has been a lot of it this week. Their father's Porsche careened off an embankment on Monday, landing unrecognizable in an icy stream 300 feet below. Their mother was injured in the crash as well. It came just after the charges were filed. But Brown 's attorney blamed bad weather and left it at that.

    Mr. SHAPIRO: It involved perhaps driving faster than the conditions allowed.

    COWAN: Turns out siblings, it seemed as close as piano keys, had triumphed over more than anyone knew. And, Meredith , a spokesman says that they were certainly ready for this day. They wanted to see their father punished, and they are at peace with their decision. As for their music , they say that they will continue to perform. Their next concert is scheduled for the end of the month in Colorado . As it has always been, music remains their refuge. Meredith :

Image: Keith Brown
George Frey  /  AP
Keith Brown, right, talks to his sister-in-law before a hearing in Provo, Utah on Feb. 17. Brown, the father of the musical group "The 5 Browns," pleaded guilty to one first-degree felony count of sodomy on a child and two second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse of a child in cases relating to his three daughters. Brown will be sentenced on March 31.
updated 2/18/2011 8:32:40 AM ET 2011-02-18T13:32:40

The father of The 5 Browns musical group pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually abusing his daughters when they were children.

With scratches on his face from a car crash, 55-year-old Keith Brown entered his plea to three felony counts in Fourth District Court.

Dressed in dark slacks and a grey overcoat, Brown appeared in court with his sister-in-law by his side.

His response to the judge who asked for his plea on each charge was a barely audible, "guilty."

Court records show Utah County prosecutors charged Brown with one first-degree felony count of sodomy on a child and two second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse of a child.

Brown, who did not speak further during the hearing, could face a sentence of up to life in prison on the first-degree felony and up to 15 years each on the second-degree felonies.

Us Magazine photos: Stars who survived abuse

"He is terribly remorseful for what has happened and for what he has put his family through," defense attorney Steven Shapiro said after the hearing. "He recognizes that this is the next step in the long road to trying to accept responsibility for something terrible that he did a long time ago."

Brown's daughters are part of the classical piano group The 5 Browns whose albums have topped the classical music charts and who have appeared on "Oprah" and other shows.

Keith Brown appeared in court just three days after he and his wife were hurt in a crash that saw his Porsche plunge from a mountain road into a 300-foor canyon in Utah.

Both parents survived the crash.

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The records filed Feb. 10 in the abuse case don't identify any victim by name or indicate the relationship between Keith Brown and the alleged victims.

However, Kimball Thomson, a spokesman for The 5 Browns, said the charges involve Brown's daughters and group members Desirae, 32, Deondra, 30, and Melody, 26. He declined to release further information on the women.

"We can confirm that Keith Brown has been charged with sexual abuse involving his daughters," Thomson said Wednesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The AP does not generally identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, but the Brown women have chosen to be identified and are cooperating with police, Thomson said.

Thomson said the Brown children severed their professional relationship with Keith Brown in October of 2008. He was once the manager of The 5 Browns but now has no connection, Thomson said.

Court documents state the allegations stem from separate occasions between November 1990 and October 1992, November 1990 and November 1992 and March 1997 and March 1998 in Utah County.

There are no statutes of limitation in Utah that prevent prosecutors from filing such sex crime charges.

Keith Brown and Lisa Brown, 54, the mother of the group members, were hospitalized after the Valentine's Day crash that mangled the Porsche beyond recognition in Little Cottonwood Canyon on the east side of the Salt Lake valley.

The Browns were initially knocked unconscious, but Keith Brown woke and was able to call 911 from a cell phone.

The cause of the crash remained under investigation, although Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said speed appeared to be a factor.

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